Am I Bipolar?
You may see yourself reflected in the following. If you do, take heed to the inner voice that nudges you to do something. The longer a bipolar disorder goes undiagnosed and untreated the more intractable the condition is likely to become. In this case at least, the old adage about "He who hesitates is lost" is depressingly true. Please don't be lost....read on.
I'm not going to recite the well-known symptoms of mania and depression. They are available throughout this website in several locations. You can check the links and look back through the diagnoses pages for discussion about them. Instead, what I will do here is provide a human experience of the symptoms themselves. It means little to read about "flights of ideas" if you haven't any idea what that might mean. If I can, I'll try to put in words what different symptoms have meant for me and/or fellow bipolars I've known. It's a wild ride so hold on now. Here we go!.
- Flight of ideas
- Rapid speech
- Speaking of hallucinations
- Euphoria, hypomania, mania???
- And MORE depression
- Mixed Up?
Flight of ideas:
- Think of yourself as literally starving to death you're so hungry. Now imagine a banquet of all your most favourite foods before you. Which to eat first? Flight of ideas is much like that. It's having in your head so many notions to follow that you can't choose any single one and so you fly from this one to that one unable to stick with any for more than a few minutes or even seconds. Every grandiose, unrealistic idea imaginable seems immanently possible to achieve: I'm going to be the next superstar, Einstein, president/prime minister, Mata Hari...you name it--we can do it when manic. Your mind is a Ferrari out-of-control, and you are a passenger without a say about your destination. Is this a scarey ride? Well, yes and no, mostly no though because bipolars aren't aware of how their thoughts seem to others. The fact that we can't sleep and can't concentrate doesn't necessarily dawn on us bipolar types. We inhabit a world of our own and personality-wise we can give a good, if a bit skewed, justification for our behaviors and thoughts.
- We can talk your ears off when mania has the upper hand. During a hypomanic stage, we yak incessantly about anything, everything, and for hours, with very little connection of topics. Our speech is sometimes described as 'pressured.' Many bipolars describe it as just having to talk, as in they just have to! Full blown mania shows up as extremely fast speech, incoherence, and often with paranoid, sometimes hallucinatory, subject matter as a centerpiece.
Speaking of hallucinations:
- Sometimes we hallucinate. Many of us have auditory hallucinations where we hear radios and TVs playing, or someone calling our name. These are pretty common. Some bipolars experience a severe form of mania where they have visual hallucinations, hear voices telling them to do certain things, become extremely paranoid and in general are delusional, sometimes to the point of not knowing who or where they are. While the former is merely annoying or perplexing, it rarely requires hospitalisation. However, the latter is horribly frightening to all involved and definitely requires immediate hospital care.
Euphoria, hypomania, mania???
- Got 100 projects due at once? Just find a bipolar on their way up (feeling good, hypomanic), but not quite at the point of euphoria and your wish shall be done. Euphoria, where the entire world is a wonderful rosy place, precedes full blown mania, at which point the mania frequently elevates into psychosis. For some of us, psychotic mania never occurs. Instead we embrace the world, make impossible plans and conjure grandiose schemes--all unrealised. We spend huge, unpayable sums on toys, friends, and credit cards, and in general have a ball...that is until the inevitable crash of depression catches us and blows out the candles on our good time. Quick summary: Hypomanic? Feeling expansive, happy and able to conquer the world. Euphoric? Feeling too good, losing touch, sense of well-being is all out of proportion to real circumstances. Manic? Sleepless, rapid fire speech and thoughts, ceaseless agitation, hallucinations, delusions and disoriented.
- The party is over; I'm all alone; I'm stupid, hateful and dull. The world has turned to shades of grey or unending monotonous beige. I can't even cry because it takes too much effort. I'm not going to work, to school or anywhere else. Pull the shades, keep the damned kids away from me; I'm just going to sleep since it's the closest thing to oblivion I can find at the moment....unless....unless....unless I can find that bottle of vodka and a few lines of cocaine that is. God I'm depressed!
This is a milder form of depression, it's true, but it is still nothing to ignore. Get help immediately.
And MORE depression:
- It's been two weeks since I went to work, and a week since I last bathed. I can't sleep even, and I can't quit thinking about how I'm going to kill myself. I know all the ways; I even looked up the dosages that kill quickly. I know where my dad's gun is too. I cut myself today--I didn't feel it, but had to do it. I can't feel anything--I want to feel, even pain is some small indication that this dead-souled body lives. I will cut again--cut deeply and die. I wanna die. They'd be better off if I were dead. Fuck it! Where's the booze? I'm outta here and maybe if I drive really fast I'll wreck and die. That'd be good. No one would care anyhow, might as well.
If you see yourself or a loved one here, please get help now! This is suicidal depression; it requires hospitalisation, and it won't go away without help. Your next stop could be the morgue if you don't.
- No, in this case, mixed up doesn't refer to being confused or perplexed, though you may indeed be both. What I am talking about is a mood miasma known as mixed states. Many bipolars experience periods where they are both manic and depressed, experiencing some or all of the shades of mood that run from one to the other. Of particular concern is the dysphoric who is depressed but experiencing the agitation and restlessness of hypomania. A person in this state may express a readiness to commit suicide, but the truly frightening thing is that they also have all the energy necessary to carry out the deed. Unlike a severe depression, where a person may not have the energy to even get out of bed, let alone the wherewithal to commit suicide, the mixed state provides just the right volatile mix whereby suicide becomes increasingly probable.
Kin to mixed states is the rapid cycler amongst us. The difference between the two is the clear demarcation between the bouts of depression and hypomania or mania. Because a rapid-cycler can appear to be suffering one long bad mood rather than distinct, discrete moods, some mistakenly assume they are suffering one rather unpredictable depression. Rapid cyclers experience distinct, unprecipitated mood changes as often as every few minutes. They are the proverbial mercurial up-down-up-down vision of bipolar illness. Rapid cyclers are the most difficult to treat of the bipolar club. At least one real-life roller-coaster should have been named The Rapid-Cycler--Disney could make a million on a ride that could take so many plunges and make such rapid accelerations.
- Of the places we bipolars can go mood-wise, none is so frightening as our tendency to go bulldog crazy with anger. Not all of us do this, not all of us do it because of triggers, some of us just seem to blow up like a powder keg for no discernible reason. But when we do, stand back, because it's spectacular...and downright dangerous too! Everybody gets angry you say?? Uh huh..indeed they do, but this isn't normal anger--this is RAGE! And it knows no bounds, no end, no rationality. Most important for you to know is that you (the bipolar or the person with them) are NOT equipped to deal with the bipolar on a mad tear. Understand this if you understand nothing else--this person is dangerous to both you and theirself. Try to subdue them only if you've backup enough to get the job done. Get help and get them to the hospital one way or the other. They may be angry at you tomorrow, but do nothing, and they may not see another tomorrow.
- Oh yes..our own private version of Russian Roulette consists of a bounty of incidents we find will guarantee to send us off into a rage, a tantrum, withdrawal, deep depression, suicideality, full blown spendies, a drinking/drug binge and more too numerous to list.
- There are two sides of triggering you and all your friends and family need to be aware of. Some triggers are from deep psychological experiences in the past that don't directly have a great deal to do with being bipolar, though they can, of course. Often certain foods like wheat and high carbohydrate diets can trigger dysphoric rage and depression. Some triggers aren't psychological or dietetic in the least, at least not from the emotional baggage point of view. Instead, they are directly related to the chemical imbalance in the brain that makes a bipolar person extremely sensitive to physical phenomena like loud sounds, sharp or grating sounds, colours, flashing lights, crowded rooms and greater or lesser amounts of daylight (SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder).
- As a friend of (or as yourself, the bipolar individual), learn now to spot triggers before they spike a mood madness. When you know something triggers your moods, then stay away from that stimulus and ask friends and families to understand why you cannot expose yourself to it. Make careful note on a mood chart of any event that seems to trigger a reaction. Note time of day, length, kind of mood reaction etc. Knowing how your body responds to certain situations will go a long way toward helping you maintain a little bit of peace in your life. There's much more to be said about triggering, but I've not the time to go into it anymore than I have. I hope to expand this section soon, so check back.